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November issue of Hawkeye

Here is a link to the November issue of the Newspaper with some of my stories.  I wrote about the student government, a local gaming club, and the Atreyu/Memphis May Fire/Ice Nine Kills/Sleep Signals show.

https://www.hccfl.edu/media/20181544/hawkeye-vol443.pdf?fbclid=IwAR0zS4Nx6T-52BQ2sTrtmBFws9LdGhetWUbc2mNcRVtwNFOhm4YEvraVcqU

 

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Looking for Love

This was written for a creative writing course a few years ago:

 

Looking For Love

 

I can’t believe there isn’t one good radio station around here.  There’s nothing I can listen to.  This town has the basics: teeny-pop; pop-Country; pop-rap; new, wimpy, pop-R&B, and classic rock with just the “hits”.  There is no older, good R&B; no alternative; no “classic Country”, nothing to stimulate the mind.  Even the so-called rock station is just pop-rock.  Now I wish I had brought something to listen to.  It’s hard enough to drive around in a new town, but even harder when I can’t focus on the road because I’m playing with the radio.  I need to remain focused because I don’t want to get pulled over for anything, not right now.  It’s hard enough since the sun is going down and it’s hard to see.

Oh, no!  What’s going on up there?  What is it, a traffic stop?  No, it’s a wreck – looks like a bad one.  Two tow trucks, huh?  Police cars are everywhere and the paramedics look like they have someone on the gurney.  I just don’t understand why people put both a McDonald’s and a gas station on corners of an intersection this size.  I think they are just asking for accidents like this one.

Wow!  Those cars are mangled.  I understand why that happens, though.  With the sun where it is, people need to be MUCH more careful when pulling out into traffic.  People can’t see more than a couple of feet in front of them and they need to slow down.  Well, there’s nothing I can do and I’m in a hurry for my date, so I just need to get through this and on my way.

The woman on the stretcher looks just like Katie.  I haven’t thought too much about her in what…six years now?  Katie was amazing and I wish it didn’t have to end the way it did; it was too soon.

 

Six years ago:

I met this beautiful woman a few months ago.  Her name is Katherine Cole, but she goes by Katie.  She is almost perfect, with beautiful, dark eyes.  She normally ties back her dark hair, but I like it better when she wears it down and it just touches her shoulders.  She has a twelve-year-old son named John.  He’s a really nice kid, but I can tell he misses his dad, who died five years ago.  He talks about how the kids at school do things with their dads — they go camping, go to sporting events, and ride bikes — and how he wishes he had someone like that even if it was just to talk to.  He is at the age when he needs some sort of father-figure to help him through the pre-teen and early teenage years.  The only male role models he has are the ones at his school.  His dad was a lawyer who had a large life insurance policy, so Katie does not really need to work.  However, she is lonely and works at her son’s school to keep her mind busy.  I am there a lot with my work and that’s how I met her and was able to be a part of her and John’s lives.

Last week, Katie told me she was finally ready to move on and had just cleaned their home to get rid of her “reminders” of a past life.  She used to sit in her room and cry whenever she thought of him and she figured if his clothes and books weren’t there anymore, she would be able to have the strength to help John adjust.  She said she finished and could finally think of a future life for her and John.

John doesn’t really have too many friends.  The only one I know is Max, whose father inherited a lot of money and has never had to work.  Max has everything he wants and is not afraid to show it off.  I’ve seen him around but I never really liked him or his parents.  He’s nice to John, though.  John is usually over at Max’s so I don’t see John too often.  I sometimes wish I had a friend like Max when I was growing up.  I had a few friends, but no one who I thought would do what Max does for John.

Yesterday, Katie told me she was worried about John because she didn’t see him too much since the accident and she fears he’ll grow up resentful.

I told her, “Kids that age are more resilient than you think and he has Max and his family for support.  You’re a great mother and I’m sure John feels the same way.  Besides, John gets great grades and just made the soccer team.  Things are going well for him.”

“Yeah, I guess so.  I’m so glad you’re here for us.”

Last night the three of us went out for dinner and talked about life.

“I want to be a lawyer just like my dad was.  No, I want to work in the district attorney’s office.  That way I can help prosecute drunk drivers.”

I said, “Keep your grades ups and you can do it.  Pay close attention in your English and Social Studies classes because they will help you the most.  When you get into high school, you can join the debate team for some really good practice.”

“Thanks!”

He was excited and even gave me a hug, something he had never done before.  I thought to myself that I could really get to love that kid as much as I do his mom.  After dinner, we walked around and just talked.

I drove them home and went back to my place.  I had to get up early to finish up my current project at the school, but I was distracted by the thoughts of those two.  I thought about how hard it must have been for them to lose a husband and a father at that time in their lives, especially to something like a drunk driver hitting and killing him on his way home from work.  It’s weird that I think so much about these two.

The last time I got this involved with someone was in college.  Everyone since then has just been a casual thing with nothing getting as emotional attached as it is now.  This is different.  I actually have meaningful conversations with someone and I have been able to get to know her kid.  It makes me feel like I am not so strange after all.  I can develop feelings and people can have feelings for me.  Katie has been nothing but wonderful.  I am glad she has felt at ease around me enough to open up as much as she has.

My job here is about finished now.  I just have to put on the finishing touches and then I can start a new project.  The lights are perfect, not too bright but the room is well lit.  The chair is so perfect in this room.  Oh, and the colors…they are wonderful.  The off-white shade of paint I used is perfect for this scene.  I wonder what Katie will think of it.  I wonder if she knows how much time I put into this project just for her.

Oh well, it’s time to finish it up.  I wish she would wake up.  These things just aren’t as fun when they’re asleep.  Normally they wake up before now.  I’ll just shake her a little.

What?!  NO!  KATIE!  You can’t be dead.  No one else has ever died like this!  Everyone else has had the decency to wait until I split them open and pull out their intestines.  How can you die before I get to have my fun?  Well, Katie, I’m still going to paint the walls with your blood; you just aren’t going to get to watch.

 

Back to present day:

No, that one ended too quickly.  My date tonight with Cindy will be much more fun.  I know how to manage the drugs better and I have never given too much to anyone since.  Cindy is going to scream just like everyone else has since I messed things up with Katie.

Rockville

I went to Welcome to Rockville again this year and had a blast.  I got to finally see Billy Idol.  I have been a fan since 1982 but have never had the chance to see him live.  I also saw the Butcher Babies for the first time.  They were so energetic and engaging. They made me really think about how much I like live music.  I have written a piece on why live music is good, and the Butcher Babies are a prime example of what I said.  Another band was the Foo Fighters.  I had only seen them once before and that was before their first record came out.  They were the opening act for the mighty Mike Watt back in 1995.  It was at a small club that was packed because there was a leak that Eddie Vedder was playing with Watt.  Anyway, Foo Fighters were the last band on the third night, and I had a 3 1/2 hour drive home, so I left after they played for an hour. When I got home, I learned that they did a cover of “Gimme Some Truth”  and brought Billy Idol on to sing it.  He did a cover of the song with his band Generation X, who I love.  Then, they did a cover of “You’re the One That I Want” from the movie “Grease.”  John Travolta came out and waved to the crowd.  I had assumed he sang it as the duet, but then I watched the video.

 

Here is a link to a story about the set: https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/john-travolta-joins-foo-fighters-grease-cover-florida-150834030.html

 

Betrayed

When I was young, I used to listen to Bill Cosby records all the time.  I am talking about the ones from the 60s and 70s. I also used to watch the Fat Albert show regularly. I also liked the show, “Picture Pages.”  I remember when “Bill Cosby Himself” came out in 1983, as I was already a big fan. I liked that set a lot, but then when “Those of You With or Without Children Will Understand” was released, I just couldn’t get into it. His cadence was different than it had been on all his earlier records, and his delivery was not what I liked.  I remember when the Cosby Show first came on and I didn’t like how so much of it was from his earlier routines.   Even though he had made changes to his delivery, I like him and considered myself a fan.

When he was accused of sexual misconduct a while back, I believed the women.  Too many of them had stories that were too similar to not be true. Plus, he was pretty powerful when it all allegedly happened, so that gave more credence to what the women said.

Last week, he was found guilty. I just read today how one of the jurors said it was Cosby’s own testimony that swayed the jury. Apparently Cosby admitted to giving women Quaaludes so they would agree to sex.

When I was young, I always thought he was a good guy, especially because of one of Eddie Murphy’s routines where Cosby tells Murphy he shouldn’t swear so much. It just goes to show you that celebrities have personal lives that can be vastly different than their public personas.

Alpha Class movie review

alpha

Life and death of the party

Life in college fraternities has been portrayed in movies like “Animal House,” “Revenge of the Nerds” and “Old School.” They are all comedies that show students that party as much as possible. Now there is a documentary called “Alpha Class,” that portrays fraternity life in much the same way as the movies. However, the happy ending for these fraternity brothers does not happen in the span of the film.

What began as a senior project for a class became a full-fledged documentary a few years later released by a production company owned by the filmmaker.

The documentary begins with a few of the members, or brothers, talking about their experience as freshmen at Arizona State University (ASU) and wanting to join a fraternity. They give their reasons, which mainly involved partying and meeting girls. The audience then sees the hazing involved. During the year, the fraternity loses its charter and everyone is left to fend for himself.

A few of the brothers don’t want to join one of the existing fraternities at ASU, so they decide to try to start with another one, which they eventually do. This is where the film gets its title: these brothers are the first class, or “Alpha Class,” of their new fraternity.

Things are not all wonderful. The new house does not do as well as the brothers would like in campus competitions and a lot of people just aren’t familiar with their house.

During their senior year, things really start to break down. The house is divided evenly in votes about parties and people think the current leadership is out of touch.

At one party, two brothers get into a fistfight because one of them has a girlfriend who is visiting. She gets upset about some of the other girls at the party so the brother wants them to go home. The person in charge of the party says the girls are staying despite the girlfriend’s wishes.

Towards the end of the school year, some of the members want to throw a huge party while others want to keep things quiet in order to stay on campus. People throw the party and the house gets suspended and the charter is revoked.

It is interesting to note that there is nothing in the film about the brothers going to class. Some reviewers have commented on this fact, but it isn’t what the film is about. The film is about the rise and fall of a fraternity.

Joe Forte, one of the producers of the documentary, says they had filmed a lot more footage but chose to focus on the parties and how they affected the standing of the house.

He also says, “There were many interactions with our chapter advisor that were good however he didn’t want to be in the film so we couldn’t use that footage.”

The filmmakers also could not show a lot of people’s face because the footage was shot in the fraternity house, which is private property. They did not have release forms from everyone who attended the parties, but all of the fraternity brothers signed waivers before filming began.

“Alpha Class” is unflinching in its portrayal of both the light and dark sides of excessive partying in college and is recommended for people who both love and hate Greek Life. You can stream the movie on most platforms, including iTunes, Vimeo and Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B079VRSY8D/). You can also go directly to the movie webpage (http://www.alphaclassmovie.com) to purchase hats, posters and shirts along with a physical copy of the movie.

 

Lettuce ban

I love romaine lettuce, as it is so much more flavorful than iceberg.  I remember reading a restaurant review one time where the writer went on and on about how bad the salads were because they used iceberg. I have also read a lot about how iceberg is basically void of nutrition, as it is mostly water. Now, there is a bunch of contaminated romaine out there that is causing people to get sick. As of the last report I read, the only thing officials know is that the affected lettuce is from Arizona. My guess is that it comes from Yuma since they claim to be the lettuce capital and even have a lettuce festival every year. The lettuce is contaminated with e. coli, which can kill people with weakened immune systems. People are being told to throw away any romaine they may have since no one knows exactly where the lettuce came from.  What I don’t like is that some articles say the lettuce is banned.  This is too negative of a connotation for my liking, as banned means it is not allowed at all.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/foodanddrink/foodnews/update-national-e-coli-outbreak-is-worsening-a-blanket-ban-on-romaine-lettuce-is-recommended/ar-AAvWvbr?li=BBnb7Kw&ocid=mailsignout

 

International Day

Today was International Day on the Ybor City campus of HCC. The school served Greek and Asian food and there were some other activities. The jazz band played while people ate. Before the lunch there was a Parade of Flags. This was my favorite part. People who were from other countries took turns coming to the microphone and saying where they were from. Each group carried a flag from its native country. While some of the groups were very straightforward and distinguished, just saying who they were and where they were from, some were more vocal. The two from England/Great Britain (yes they are different and have two flags) announced that England is the next World Cup winner. One thing I liked was how most of them spoke in their native language; some said their parts two times: in their language and English. Some countries had just one person in the parade, while others, like Colombia, had many.  Being there reminded me of when I was in New York or London because there were people from all over the world in one place.

Sundance

Here is a piece I wrote about some of the films I saw at Sundance 2018:

 

Making art from pain

Some say the best art comes from painful experiences. If one were to watch many of the films screened at Sundance Film Festival 2018, one would believe the current filmmakers have taken this advice to heart.

Films of all types and lengths are shown at Sundance. This year, a common theme in multiple genres was pain and heartache.

One of the short student films, “Safe Haven” by Amri Rigby, tells the story of a self-harming high-school girl who wants to escape by going away to college. She waits everyday for an acceptance letter to arrive. When it does, her mother finds it first and throws it away. The girl finds the letter and confronts her mother, only to be told she is not ready.

Two other short films that portray pain are “Blue Christmas” and “Mud.” “Blue Christmas” tells the story of a debt collector in Scotland who chooses to go to work on Christmas Eve to avoid his wife suffering from psychosis. He is forced to repossess a family’s television before coming home to his wife trying to set the house on fire. “Mud” is about an elderly Navajo woman who suffers from alcoholism and the affects that has on her grandson and other people in the community. The film begins with her grandson being forced to ask her to leave the restaurant in which he works and then follows her day facing the disdain of other people in town. Shaandiin Tome, the writer/director, says she wanted to make a film that shows the realistic struggles of her people and how they affect more than just the people struggling. “The process of making this film was a very personal and somewhat hard journey, but it was worth it.” She says that she wanted to make a film that went past the stereotypes of Native Americans and show the personal side of what life is like for many people.

Short documentaries also explored darker aspects of people’s lives. One of the old men in “The Trader” says he always wanted to go to school but could not and that he would leave his village in the country of Georgia if he could. In “Symphony of a Sad Sea,” the main character says he wants a “whale to eat [him] and spit [him] out in the United States.” His name is Hugo, and he is a boy in Tijuana whose brother had recently been killed and whose father left for the United States when Hugo was 2 years old.

Full-length movies with famous directors and actors also focus on painful events. Ethan Hawke made a movie called “Blaze,” which is about real-life country music singer/songwriter Blaze Foley. The film focuses on many of Foley’s struggles and ends with his murder in 1989. “Nancy,” featuring Steve Buscemi, is about an unhappy woman who watches a report of a girl who had been missing for 30 years and calls the family saying she is the missing daughter. After one of the screenings, Christina Choe said she had a college writing instructor who was an imposter and wrote “Nancy” what could have happened with someone like that.  About the writing process, she references the quote, “What breaks your heart mends your heart.”

Many films shown at Sundance get bought by larger companies and are then distributed throughout the world. HBO Films bought the rights to a full-length documentary called “The Sentence.” Rudy Valdez made the movie about his sister, Cindy Shank, who was charged and convicted of a six-year-old crime after she had changed her life and started a family. The film focuses on nine years of her children’s, husband’s, siblings’ and parents’ lives while she is in prison. Valdez says that standing behind the camera and making the film “allowed [him] to cope with a lot of the things that [he’s] seen.” Valdez says he wanted to make the movie without talking about what his sister was experiencing in prison. Rather, he wants to show other lives that are hurt by crimes by showing the family members who, although they are free, still have their lives disrupted by prison.

People can find all kinds of movies. Many independent filmmakers try to make films that mean something personal to them and Sundance Film Festival is a venue to show off their work. Many current filmmakers see there is pain in life, but also want to show that people can rise above it.

 

 

Troubles in Schools

For the past 20+ years, incidents of school shootings or “near misses” have increased in number. There is also a lot more news of suicide and bullying in schools. The issues are at all levels, from elementary schools to universities. Are these incidents really increasing or is there merely more media coverage?

I am in a book discussion group where we are discussing “A Faculty Guide to Addressing Disruptive and Dangerous Behavior.” So far, the book is focusing on college-level issues, but what is said can be applied anywhere, not just at schools. (The term used to be “going postal”).

One thing that interested me is that there is a section that talks about quite a few school and other shooters and I only remembered a few of the names. A lot of these people claim to want fame, but so many of us forget them. We only remember their actions. A case in point is the recent incident in Ohio(?) where the boy shot himself in the school bathroom. He had left a journal that talks about how many people he would kill and how famous he would be. It is telling that I am not sure what state he lived in and I purposely did not look it up before writing this. When horrific events become the norm, we become desensitized.

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